Rob Behrens approved as parliamentary and health service ombudsman

19 Jan 17

Rob Behrens has been approved as the new parliamentary and health service ombudsman.

His appointment was endorsed in a joint report published today by the health committee and the public administration and constitutional affairs committee.

The ombudsman considers complaints that government departments, a range of other public bodies in the UK and the NHS in England, “have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service”.

In 2014-15, the ombudsman service handled 29,000 complaints and investigated 5,058 cases.

Behrens has previously worked as the independent adjudicator for higher education in England and Wales. He is currently a senior adviser to the European Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education and a visiting professor at the UCL Institute of Education, among other roles. He was selected from five shortlisted candidates.

Supported by about 450 employees, he will lead the ombudsman service through a “transition period”.

A draft bill published in December proposes merging his office with that of the local government ombudsman into one public services ombudsman, as part of wider reforms. Behrens is expected to hold the position until these changes are enacted.

Cheryl Gillan, a member of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee who took the chair for the pre-appointment hearing, said: "Rob Behrens has both the professional competences and personal independence necessary to fulfil this role. His in-depth knowledge and understanding of the role of the ombudsman and the experience he has acquired at the office of the independent adjudicator in higher education will stand him in good stead in this new position."

Dame Julie Mellor, the outgoing PHSO, said: “Rob has considerable experience of complaint handling from his time as independent adjudicator for higher education in England and Wales.

“He will be a great advocate for an independent service that makes impartial final decisions on complaints about UK public services and the NHS in England.”

Last week, Michael King was confirmed as the new local government ombudsman.

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